Is Freedom Works as dishonest as Freedom Path?
Over the last couple weeks, I’ve looked at a couple of maligning mail pieces sent out by the shadowy Freedom Path PAC whose primary purpose appears to be to malign incumbent Senator Orrin Hatch‘s opponents. Both mail pieces appear to distort and misrepresent Hatch challengers Chris Herrod and Dan Liljenquist. Read the posts on the “Two Scoops” or “Double dip” mailer here and the “Jobs not Made in the USA” mailer here.
As per my promise, I will also analyze for factual accuracy the mailers sent by the anti-Hatch Freedom Works PAC. This post looks at a mailer I call “Time Changed Hatch.” As with the last two mailers, I have tried to go to the primary sources and have also reached out to the Hatch reelection campaign for any kind of response they might have. They have directed me to the site realhatchrecord.com but declined to respond directly to the mailer any further. I have utilized their site to augment my research into the primary sources. Since the site appears to be more focused on the larger Freedom Works mailer (as in, it’s 45 pages long), I expect finding it more useful when I present that analysis.
Analysis: ”Time Changed Hatch” Mailer Attempts to Paint Hatch as Changed by Washington
“In 1976, Orrin Hatch went to Washington. And just as time has shaped Utah’s unique landscape, thirty-six years as a Washington insider has changed Orrin Hatch into a big-spending, big-government politician.”
This, then, is the thesis of the entire effort to remove Senator Hatch from office and not really a fact so much as an argument. It’s classic Tea Party rhetoric. The question: is Senator Orrin Hatch really a big-spending, big-government politician?“
I will let you answer that yourself. It’s really a statement that is relative to your own perception of what “big” is and whether it is good or bad. I will note this: Senator Hatch, with thirty-six years in the US Senate, has a record that has been examined by many organizations, lobbyists, and activists. As the Hatch campaign pointed out to me, the American Conservative Union has given him a lifetime rating of 90%, the National Taxpayer’s Union this year gave him the highest rating in Congress, and the Club for Growth gave him a 97% rating for his pro-growth policies. These are just a few. Find a more thorough list of organizations that have honored him here.
Clearly, reasonable minds can disagree. So, I won’t answer the question about whether Senator Hatch is a “big-spending, big-government politician.”
On the other hand, the “Time Changed Hatch” mailer lists five specific bullet points in support of the statement that we can look at for accuracy.
The Statements: Five Votes or Types of Votes
- Statement 1: “Voted 16 times to increase the debt ceiling by a whopping $7.5 trillion–accounting for half of our nation’s debt.”
That Senator Hatch voted 16 times to increase the debt appears to be mostly TRUE, though I could only verify 14 votes, and I’m not going to discuss the total amount. (I suspect that somebody is going to correct me on the missing upon posting).
- Senate Vote #298 (Sep 29, 1981).
- Senate Vote #23 (Feb 6, 1981).
- Senate Vote #851 (Sep 23, 1982).
- Senate Vote #115 (May 25, 1983).
- Senate Vote #663 (Oct 12, 1984).
- Senate Vote #371 (Dec 11, 1985).
- Senate Vote #636 (Aug 15, 1986).
- Senate Vote #262 (Sep 23, 1987).
- HR 3136 (March 28, 1996).
- HR 2015 (June 25, 1997).
- S.2578 (June 11, 2002).
- HR 4 (April 1, 2004) .
- H.J. Res. 47 (March 16, 2006).
- H.J. Res. 43 (September 27, 2007)
Editorial Comment: Whether raising the debt at any one of these particular points is public policy question that I am not addressing here. It should be noted that a number of these votes (the first eight) occurred and were signed by President Ronald Reagan. With as often as we see politicians of all stripes (even Obama has tried) trying to channel the Gipper, I think it is relevant to note that President Reagan would have had to sign off on each of the debt increases that passed the House and Senate.
- Statement 2:“Supported the “TARP” $700 billion Wall Street bailout.”
This statement is TRUE. Senator Hatch did vote for TARP. According to the roll call list, Senator Hatch, along with then Senator Bennett, voted “Yea” on H. R. 1424, better known as “TARP” or “Troubled Assets and Relief Program.” The bill’s stated purpose was to “provide authority for the Federal Government to purchase and insure certain types of troubled assets for the purposes of providing stability to and preventing disruption in the economy and financial system and protecting taxpayers.”
- Statement 3: “Voted for numerous bills filled with pork-barrel earmarks–in 2010 Hatch was the 3rd highest earmarker out of all 535 members of Congress.”
This statement appears to be TRUE. If you surf over to CQ.com, there is an excellent database on earmarks and what each member of Congress has earmarked. If you click on the link on the left that says “Member’s with the highest total” you find a list of the top ten highest earmarking members of the Senate and the House. Senator Hatch was #3 on this list in 2010, the year in the Freedom Works “Time Changed Hatch” mailer. However, on that same page you can find that in 2009 Senator Hatch is not even in the top ten list.
Editorial Comment: Whether earmarks are “bad’ per se is an open question. Unlike a lot of other spending methods, earmarks are transparent and open, and, in reality, the way that Congress was designed to work. Federal earmarks account for only .5% of the budget, and in fiscal year 2010, cutting out Senator Hatch’s earmarks (worth $358,815,000 for Utah) would have left another $10.7 billion in earmarks. If the federal government is going to spend, then earmarks are about the most benign and transparent way it happens.
- Statement 4: “Co-sponsored the Obama-like Individual Mandate for Health Care, a law that forces individuals to purchase health insurance.”
While it is TRUE that Senator Hatch did co-sponsor S.1770 in 1993per the “Time Changed Hatch” mailer, what is unclear is whether it was “Obama-like.”Looking further at the bill summary, the bill appears to provides for, among other things, “access to health insurance coverage under a qualified health plan for every citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States” (universal coverage regardless of citizenship status), ”nondiscrimination based on health status” (preventing insurance companies from discriminating based on preexisting conditions), imposes a mandate on states requiring them to comply with certain insurance certification and enrollment requirements, and allows an exemption from a universal coverage mandate for those with religious scruples that prevent participation in “health plan coverage” (that last one I thought was odd, but, there it is…).
Therefore, it does appear that S.1770 required that all individuals be part of the national healthcare plan, or what is better known as an “individual mandate.” While states may legally do as much within their own states (as did Massachusetts), whether such is constitutional on a federal level raises is an open question and will be argued before the Supreme Court this year. (See more about that debate here).
- Statement 5: Partnered with liberal Ted Kennedy as a co-sponsor of SCHIP, described as ‘…a precursor to the new [universal health care] system.”
This statement is TRUE. Senator Hatch did co-sponsor SCHIP with Senator Ted Kennedy (and 23 other Senators, too) in 1997, as was highly reported in the news media at the time. It was seen as sufficiently significant at the time that Wikipedia even makes a note of Senator Hatch’s co-sponsorship with the support of then First Lady Hillary Clinton in the second paragraph of the entry on SCHIP. The New York Times reported at the time that
Senator Orrin G. Hatch, a conservative Republican, today embraced a major Democratic effort to provide health insurance for half of the nation’s 10 million uninsured children, saying he would become the chief sponsor of the legislation.
Senator Hatch explained that he took the step across the aisle to show that “the Republican Party ”does not hate children,” and he added that ”as a nation, as a society, we have a moral responsibility” to provide coverage for the most vulnerable children.”
CONCLUSION: Freedom Works “Time Changed Hatch” Mailer is factually true.
While reasonable minds can, and do, disagree on the wisdom of the above cited votes by Senator Hatch, the statements Freedom Works makes are largely true. In fact, I’m not sure that any of them appear to distort his record in any way. The only statements that seem to be questionable, in my assessment are the following:
- “…36 years in Washington Changed Orrin Hatch.” This is up for debate. Yes, the man is three and a half decades older, but change can swing both ways.
- “Obama-like Individual Mandate of Health Care[.]” I have not addressed how comparable the mandate Senator Hatch voted for and co-sponsored is to the American Healthcare Act because such would need more space and time than I care to give the issue and than you care to read. However, on its face, there are many relevant comparisons. (For more on the American Healthcare Act before the Supreme Court, go here).
The striking contrast between the mailers sent by Freedom Path (pro-Hatch) and those sent by Freedom Works (anti-Hatch) is stark. Where Freedom Path grasps at straws and makes very distorted spins on Liljenquist and Herrod’s records, Freedom Path takes an almost “high road” approach. “Here are the votes,” Freedom Works says, and “we think they lead to a certain result.”
With that in mind, please carefully consider the facts and whether they support your policy preferences. Freedom Path is demonizing Liljenquist and Herrod without any basis; Freedom Works is pointing out policy points with a very real basis in Senator Hatch’s record. Happy hunting!
- Freedom Path “Two Scoops…” Mailer Misses the Truth on Double-Dipping (publiusonline.com)
- Sen. Hatch tells Bernanke to butt out of housing policy (agbeat.com)
- My Letter to a Senator Hatch Re-Election Campaign Staffer (connorboyack.com)
- My Letter to Senator Hatch in Opposition to PIPA (windley.com)
- Maine senator’s retirement a blow to Hatch’s campaign – Salt Lake Tribune (sltrib.com)